Yes, We Need to Get Rid of AP Courses

classmates doing studies for exam together
Photo by Armin Rimoldi on

There, I said it. That’s my hot take. We need to get rid of AP courses.

Why? Because they’ve been pushed down the throat of our education system for the past twenty years, pitched as an equity solution because we should be offering the best content to everyone.

I agree 100% with that statement. Every student needs access to the same high-quality, highly relevant, highly personalized content and pedagogy. We need our teachers to be the very best, to create authentic, engaging learning environments that not only teach our students how to learn and grow but also how to be good people and participate in society.

That’s not what AP tests or courses do. They certainly don’t do it for most students.

Some 60 percent of A.P. exams taken by low-income students this year scored too low for college credit — 1 or 2 out of 5 — a statistic that has not budged in 20 years.

I know the argument for having AP courses is that they are more rigorous and require more from students. But the reason they do those things is because of the AP test students take at the end of the course.

And they take that test to earn college credit. And that is the only reason. No one takes an AP course because it sounds exciting or they want to be a professional AP course taker.

They take them so they can pass the test and get college credit. Which doesn’t happen for most of them.

Getting college credit after taking an AP course is a crap shoot, at best. At worst, it’s a waste of time. This isn’t a new argument, and I’m sure it will continue to be argued long into the future. Students hate it, and some professionals have noted the need for improvement in the system or even other companies entering the arena to give the College Board some competition.

I don’t want competition. I want the AP system gone. It isn’t serving the purpose we need, which is rethinking and redesigning Tier 1 instruction in ALL classrooms for EVERY student.

That’s the goal.

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Avoid Raising Machines

"That we would train machines to be like us is not surprising.

The real scandal is how much we’ve trained ourselves to be like machines." (Austin Kleon, Machines That Make You Feel More Human - Austin Kleon)

“That we would train machines to be like us is not surprising.

The real scandal is how much we’ve trained ourselves to be like machines.”

Austin Kleon

It’s testing season as another school year comes to a close. The time when students get to demonstrate just how well we’ve trained them to be little machines.

We’ve covered the content, given the testing tips, and passed out the booklets or the Chromebooks.

We’ve done everything we can to prepare them for the relentless battery of standardized tests they must endure, all because someone who knows nothing about learning needs evidence that teachers have done their jobs.

They want to know how well we’ve trained our little machines.

There’s just one problem: we don’t train machines. We teach human beings.

Maybe there’s something wrong here.

We Need Easier EdTech Integrations

I won’t spend my time here griping about the overuse of technology for standardized testing and other “necessary” tests. That fight is for another day.

Today, let’s talk about how frustrating it is to use many testing services. I’ve spent most of the past two weeks getting two grade levels into two different online testing systems.

One system required an SFTP upload of a CSV file. I kept getting errors even using the company’s template and data tool. After trying a few dozen times, I gave up and sent the file to the company. The next day, the data was uploaded and corrected. I still have no clue what was wrong.

The second company uses Clever to sync students and teachers. But not to log students in for the test. No, no, they require a lockdown browser for their exam. Conveniently, they autogenerate usernames and passwords for the students.

Did I mention these elements are 11 characters or so each? And the students using them are in kindergarten?

Yep. Smiles all around.

Mind you, I have a decent amount of experience with all the tools I used to make these data uploads happen. I would venture to say that the person at most schools responsible for this process is NOT as experienced. Just a hunch.

There has to be a better way.